The dark days of winter can affect our mental health. According to the Mayo Clinic, "Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that's related to changes in seasons...If you're like most people with SAD, your symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody."
If you're someone who experiences sadness and low energy in the winter months, one way to care for your mind throughout the season is to practice mindfulness. There are many definitions of mindfulness, but the simplest one is "a state of active, open attention to the present, and observing one’s thoughts and feelings without judging them as good or bad." There are many ways to practice mindfulness, but the two topics addressed here are morning routines and eating mindfully.
How we begin our morning can set the tone for the entire day. Here are some techniques to incorporate mindfulness into your morning routine.
Before jumping out of bed in the morning, take a moment to immerse yourself in feelings of gratitude by listing three things you’re thankful for. You can simply list them in your head, write them down, or share them with your partner.
Next, take a few moments to focus on your breathing. Just a few minutes a day of focusing on your breath can tremendously reduce stress and promote relaxation. Try taking at least five deep inhales and exhales to calm your body and mind.
Finally, as you sit down for your morning coffee or breakfast, rather than overwhelming yourself with information, like checking your email or turning on the television, choose to read an uplifting, inspiring, or positive article or quote instead.
This time of year you might be more likely to find yourself eating in response to your emotions, stress eating, or binge eating. There tend to be more environmental food-related cues (such as the extra sweets that show up everywhere during the holiday season). Mindless eating involves eating past the point when you’re full, and most often occurs when you eat while you’re distracted, like snacking while watching TV. Practicing mindful eating techniques can help.
Mindful eating is about bringing attention to your cravings and physical cues when eating, and involves:
Eating slowly and without distraction
Paying attention to physical hunger cues and eating only until you're adequately satisfied
Distinguishing between actual hunger cues and non-hunger triggers for eating (such as boredom)
Engaging your senses by noticing colors, smells, sounds, textures, and tastes, and appreciating your food
Give one or more of these suggestions a try and tell me how it goes! I hope that these ideas help you remain mindful this winter.
Another great way to prevent SAD is to connect with yourself and others on a retreat. Consider joining us for one of our upcoming retreats.